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Old 12th June 2019, 15:00   #31
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Default Re: Bhutan to tighten tourist inflow

Originally Posted by Sutripta View Post
But check out the Lhotshampa problem. Check out the origins/rationale behind the Inner Line Permit.
Wow, had no idea. Thanks for the prompts for further reading, learned something new today. My admiration for Bhutan has gone down quite a bit.
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Old 13th June 2019, 17:31   #32
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Default Re: Bhutan to tighten tourist inflow

A bit off topic to the subject being discussed, however relevance goes to the fact as to why we as tourists are loathed in general. Talk to any one who resides in the hills, they simply loathe the insensitivity and impatience of an average desi from the plains. If this is the case within the country, its not surprising that foreigners find it difficult to digest our attitude.
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Old 13th June 2019, 18:33   #33
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Default Re: Bhutan to tighten tourist inflow

Originally Posted by SR-71 View Post
A bit off topic to the subject being discussed, however relevance goes to the fact as to why we as tourists are loathed in general. Talk to any one who resides in the hills, they simply loathe the insensitivity and impatience of an average desi from the plains. If this is the case within the country, its not surprising that foreigners find it difficult to digest our attitude.
Being from hills and having suffered the onslaught of tourists, I fully support what bhutan is doing. Go to Leh, uttarakhand and himachal. Places like shimla are exploited so much that there are water crisis. Ultimately, only those staying locally suffer in the long run. Leh is another classic example of what 3 idiots did to the region.

I understand the positive side as well of tourism and economic impact it makes but at the moment, negative far out weight the positives. We must find a way to control before it goes out of hands & harness nature in a controlled way.
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Old 16th June 2019, 00:27   #34
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Default Re: Bhutan to tighten tourist inflow

Originally Posted by am1m View Post
The issue we all have is of thinking 'tourism' is the path to development. It's a myth, spun by the businesses that stand to gain by the tourist rush, and to make us feel less guilty about visiting a place and 'contributing' to the local economy there. Contributing to the deterioration more like it! Sure there will be a trickle-down effect of spending. But almost always any such tourism-driven development is nothing more than a big rush to capitalize on natural beauty that none of the beneficiaries (government, businesses, tourists) actually created or are doing anything to sustain.
Living in Manali, I see this as so true. A great many tourism businesses are owned by rich outsiders. Locals very often not feasibly employ-able either because they're not well-educated for more preferable, better-paying jobs, or because they have chip on their shoulder, or because non-local owners want to be able to abuse their employees, break minimum-wage laws, etc, and can't get away with doing that to locals, who have an ability to stand together. Incomes may go up for many locals, but economy becomes quite artificial / seasonal thus erratic and even unpredictable (adverse weather kills everything, for example). Ecology really gets messed up, roads / watercourses become filthy. Land prices escalate way beyond what's reasonable for locals to continue trading in. People get into huge debt trying to get their piece of the pie, and not infrequently their plans backfire. Ultimate effect: More money in some pockets, but locals lose control over their own destinies, everybody's quality of life goes WAY down, instability goes up. Yesterday I walked along a cloudy, trash-strewn stream that ran through an apple orchard. "Fifteen years ago we used to drink from this water" my local friend told me. He'd had two successful travel offices but got a bit messed up in the Old Manali drug scene, spent two years in jail in Goa, and now just wants to stay around his home and be a simple farmer again. My question: If he was going to be happier just farming anyway, why did he have to spend a decade or two of his life going through the painful wringer of "tourism development"?

Originally Posted by Yieldway17 View Post
I browse few travel related forums and the hate against Chinese and Indian tourists is strong... most of the times it’s plain old racism and stereotyping.
I strongly disagree. Ask ANY Ladakhi, ANY local anywhere in H.P., or for that matter the Northeast whether they'd rather deal with domestic or foreign tourists, and you will find this has little or nothing to do with racism. Locals here (who are very much Indian and ethnically/religiously similar to the hated visitors I might add) are bossed around and treated with condescending disdain by a great many domestic tourists, particularly those from the nearby states. So obviously they don't like them. While I have practically never seen them being treated that way by foreigners, and in turn, they actually like and quite often befriend them, and do a lot of repeat business with them. I've never seen foreigners jostling and pushing one another (even women) aside trying to cram themselves into a bus or train (as I was horrified in seeing among a group of mainland Indian students in Aizawl, where no local would ever DREAM of behaving that way). Driving habits of many of those incoming are also hideous, rude, even downright dangerous. This stark contrast does not go unnoticed and un-talked-about among locals, I can assure you. The trekking / nature-seeking / mind-broadening "learner" / spiritual-seeker / high-end Indian crowd typically is very easy to deal with and very considerate / well-behaved, but they are still a relatively rare breed at this point. Domestic tourists of the mass-tourism type are in general mostly just tolerated by locals everywhere. Their presence is not really appreciated beyond what can be extracted from them.

Originally Posted by ninjatalli View Post
Hardly how the majority of backpackers are - I think you are living in the 60s or visualizing Dev Anand songs

Let me give you the snapshot of people (from EU, US and ANZ) I met across three countries in over a period of a month - recently graduated students, nurses, doctors, teachers, carpenters, software professionals, and such. All with leave breaks and/or plans of what to do once they get back. Hardly a guy who's planning on "hipping" it out over here. And not all of them smoked or were interested in the cannabis or other drugs. local transportation improves, in probably less than a decade, people in the NE are going to complain about the influx of local tourists disturbing their local setup.
Absolutely right. In Manali at least, it's now domestic tourists going after the illicit drugs and trance parties as much/more than anyone else. But with the added aspect of prostitution (an industry that foreigners here never contributed much to). I was appalled to go out to Spiti's Chandra-Tal, amidst some of the most pristine landscape in the region, and to have trance music blaring across the camping plain at 11PM, from a huge amplifier in the back of a Gypsy... and it was not foreigners playing it, folks. In fact I was the only foreigner up there, and I resented the whole thing. If one wants loud music, why not go clubbing back in whichever metro?

Originally Posted by Red Liner View Post
The biggest reason why bhutan charges such huge money is to keep those backpackers away. The last thing the bhutanese government wants is a bunch of hippies sitting all over the quaint kingdom forever like what has happened in some parts of Himachal. Then follows cannabis, trance music, a local tourist economy that gets completely swayed by the hippies, which then looks like a country within a country.

Indians might be noisy et all, but we leave in a few days to get back home. Ghar ka khaana can't be ignored.

I am all for keeping that 250usd where it should be.
Originally Posted by ninjatalli View Post
Most [foreigners] were quite unhappy that they had to pay some $250 per day as a fee in Bhutan while Indians (and other 'regional' tourists) didn't have to at all; most chose to skip that country, even though it would have been one of their most wanted place to go on their lists.
As a foreigner of modest means, I always felt these disparities in entry fees, even to places like the Taj Mahal, essentially just makes lightly-treading foreign tourists feel cheated. If the government wanted to give a heavy discount to Indians presenting BPL cards, to students, etc, and charge normal middle/upper class folks a fee that would make a real contribution to those monuments' maintenance, that would be perfectly appropriate. But it's kind of laughable that we've got so many Indian crorepatis paying rs20 to enter whichever monument, when the young foreign student funding his India adventure with a little savings is having to pay rs2500... it is just not right in my view. Can it be justified on the basis that such monuments "belong" to Indians? Sure... but then we'd better be consistent and start charging Indians ten times the price to get into New York City museums - because these don't "belong" to Indians (or any other "foreigners")... and besides, any Indian in New York is of considerable financial status, right?!! Let me ask, how would that make YOU feel???

To sum up: In Bhutan's case, charging a mere rs500 for regionals is not going to limit their numbers at all. It'll make Bhutan $6million/year, but with a lower-quality crowd, the cost of maintaining that country will go up by many times that amount.

I really feel as though they ought to just think of making it something like $50/day for everyone across the board. Overall income would probably increase, higher-quality tourists would be the norm, lower-quality from whether hippie or regional would look elsewhere for a cheaper place to overrun. The sort of higher-end, more socially/ecologically sensitive Indian tourist of the type they want, the type that won't ruin their land, has no problem paying rs3500 a day for an all-inclusive holiday - They're spending a lot more than that up here in Manali! And $50/day would most definitely keep out whatever foreign "hippies" of the lowest form who may want to take up residence in that holy kingdom; because that sort doesn't want to pay more than rs600/night for a room.

I've been thinking a lot about the Northeast in this respect, as we have strong connections there. Locals are starting to plead with the government to develop tourism, but they do not realize the ruination that can come from it. I kept telling people I'd meet in Mizoram: "You can't just develop 'tourism'" - you've got to be careful about what kind of tourists you'll draw in. Keep it exclusive. Keep it expensive. Take in a kind of tourist who can appreciate the cultural uniqueness of the place and appreciate and learn from it. Maybe promote it as a kind of ten-day de-tox even! But do NOT just throw the doors open to anyone who feels like coming - it will be extremely destructive." I hope that there are people in NE governments wise and perceptive enough to "get it". It is kind of the final frontier as far as domestic tourism goes, but it is also one of the most culturally / environmentally pristine... and thus deserving of protection.

I really do feel that T-bhpians are of a much higher level of social-consciousness than average, and I doubt that most members are the ones doing the kind of damage so much in view here.

Hence, I hope that readers will not take any kind of personal offense to anything I've written above, which as I see it is nothing more or less than the truth, on the basis of many years' observations.


Last edited by ringoism : 16th June 2019 at 00:30.
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Old 16th June 2019, 20:11   #35
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Default Re: Bhutan to tighten tourist inflow

Originally Posted by ringoism View Post

To sum up: In Bhutan's case, charging a mere rs500 for regionals is not going to limit their numbers at all. It'll make Bhutan $6million/year, but with a lower-quality crowd, the cost of maintaining that country will go up by many times that amount.
You'll get essentially the same regional crowd. Maybe cut down on daytrippers. (I would think twice about going to P'soling for just lunch)
More importantly, it is part of a bilateral agreement. So wonder how they are implementing it.

Take in a kind of tourist who can appreciate the cultural uniqueness of the place and appreciate and learn from it.
Long time back, seeing what was happening in Sikkim (Tsango lake in particular), had suggested to one of the authorities there that
a) To go beyond Gangtok, visitors would have to pass an exam/ interview.
b) Violators to be detained for one day (enough to shred any travel schedule).
Haven't quite worked out how to implement it without arbitrariness and corruption. Thoughts welcome.

In other news, not connected with this thread
Bhutan's pay commission makes teachers and doctors the highest paid civil servants in the country.
Nepal makes teaching Mandarain compulsory in its schools.
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Old 17th June 2019, 12:34   #36
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Default Re: Bhutan to tighten tourist inflow

Bhutan throws up pay wall amid surge of Indian tourists


For centuries, parents of newborn children in the Thimphu valley have visited the Changangkha Lhakhang (temple) that rises above the Bhutanese capital, bringing their babies as young as four or five days old to be blessed by its deity.

But a surge of tourist inflows into Bhutan this year has left parents and pilgrims jostling for space in the temple’s small inner sanctum.

The crowds have sparked a major debate across the country that could mean tougher regulations for tourists from the region, especially India.

“It was suffocating for the mothers who were trying to get blessings for their children,” explains a guard outside the temple, “They could barely say their prayers and they were very upset,” he added.

On June 7, the Tourism Council announced it was shutting the temple to all tourists for the three months, or peak season. The notice, printed on a board outside the temple, says the closure was in the “interest of the safety of the tourists”, and was done so as to allow “important religious events” to be conducted inside.

When the doors of Changangkha Lhakhang re-open to tourists, they will be charged 300 Ngultrums (₹300) as entrance fees, the government has decided.

Other monasteries and temples in the country, known for its deep Buddhist religiosity, are quickly following suit.

The measures are part of an entire list being compiled by the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) in response to the large numbers of “unregulated” tourists now making a beeline for the Himalayan Kingdom, once called the “Last Shangri-La” for its remoteness and pristine environment.

For decades, Bhutan’s government promoted an exclusive brand of “high value, low volume/ impact” tourism, that brought in only a few tourists willing to pay well for luxury hotel brands, rather than ‘backpackers’ and tourists looking for a cheap holiday.

Bhutan charges a $250 (₹17,500) mandatory cover-charge per day for all tourists except those from India, Bangladesh and the Maldives. Indians, especially those driving in directly from West Bengal through the border town of Phuentsholing, don’t need visas to Bhutan and account for most of the “unregulated” tourists. In 2017, these tourists made up more than 2,00,000 of the approximately 2,70,000 tourist arrivals, a surge that the government says the country is unprepared for.

“Indian visitors are very welcome in Bhutan, but if our infrastructure is not able to cater to them, or if our tourism industry is unable to entertain the guests well, then that is not good for them either. We wouldn’t want such a situation to impinge upon the Indo-Bhutan relationship,” Bhutan’s Prime Minister Dr. Lotay Tshering told The Hindu.

“The increasing numbers of tourist arrivals are to our advantage economically, but our biggest worry is that there should be no friction between our visitors and our Bhutanese people,” Dr. Tshering said during an interview at his office in Thimphu.

Making the crisis more acute is the fact that more than a 100 new hotels that cater to budget tourists are coming up in the main tourist towns of Paro, Thimphu and Bumthang, and most are being built with loans from banks that won’t be repaid unless the number of tourists steadily increases.

According to Garab Dorji, the Chairman of the Guides Association of Bhutan, a tour guide himself, this is leading to many hotels undercutting each other in a bid to raise occupancy levels, dropping rates to as low as ₹1,000 a night.

Officials say the hotel construction boom could also cause a housing crunch for residents and add to water shortages.

“The tourists they attract unfortunately, are not interested in preserving Bhutan’s culture or environment,” says Mr. Dorji, who describes arguments with tourists who refuse to follow Bhutan’s strict dress code in Dzongs (forts) and Lakhangs, play loud music, and leave litter in public areas.

According to Mr. Dorji and other tourism industry insiders, the problems with the regional tourists are now driving away the dollar-paying high-end European, Japanese and even Indian tourist groups, who seek a less crowded experience.

“I know at least one very famous international travel agency that has announced it will not bring tours to Bhutan after 2020 because of the mass tourism,” he said.

As a result, the government is looking at a series of measures to balance the increasing numbers of tourists with regulations to control their behaviour.

Tourists from India (and Bangladesh and the Maldives) could be asked to pay a “Sustainable Development Fee” of ₹500 on arrival, more tourists sites will charge entrance fees, while the Tourism Council of Bhutan, that has so far only regulated three-star hotels and above, make get oversight of all hotels in the country.

Contrary to many other countries seeking to attract more and more tourists, the TCB is also scaling down its targets from a plan for 5,00,000 tourists in 2023, to less than 4,00,000, reported local paper The Bhutanese, as part of efforts to tackle Bhutan’s problem of plenty.
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Old 20th June 2019, 05:07   #37
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Default Re: Bhutan to tighten tourist inflow

Since the past decade there has been a growing passive hatred for Indians in certain sections of the Bhutanese society attributable to two major issues:

Between the border town of Phuentsholing and the city of Siliguri in WB that it shares deep rooted commercial ties, falls numerous Indian villages and towns that make life a living hell for Bhutanese vehicles that come into India. Sometimes mobs stop their cars demanding money, and at other times they destroy the vehicles out of spite of some kind. Whatever be the case, the Bhutanese regd vehicles are treated very badly by some townsfolk in these regions.

That and the noisy Indian tourist groups that vilify the calmness of the country. Ask any hotelier, and they will tell you the scariest of stories about how this group trashed their hotel rooms or that group did not for once stop making noise.

Don't get me wrong, Bhutanese are not like the Nepalis - I have lived for over 10 years in Nepal and known how deep rooted hatred for Indians is with them.

Whilst the former don't want to hate Indians at all. Bhutanese for decades have grown up with Indian culture, language, TV shows, etc. They have always had deep affection for us. But many of us (esp the tourists and those polarised villagers) seem to keep giving them enough reasons to hate us. The shift in affection towards us has been huge - between the 90s and now. It is sad.

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Old 20th June 2019, 16:42   #38
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Default Re: Bhutan to tighten tourist inflow

Originally Posted by Sutripta View Post
a) To go beyond Gangtok, visitors would have to pass an exam/ interview.
Would the authorities entertain review/re examination in the event of failing to pass? That would be quite in keeping with the examination norms prevalent in our country! OT, but could not resist.

Tourism is a blessing and a curse, seems to be more of the latter nowadays and not just in India. Read in a Bill Bryson book that the average American domestic tourist can be just as insensitive to their environment.
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Old 20th June 2019, 17:02   #39
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@Haldar - you could not have put it better.

Bhutan registered vehicles, esp. fruit carrying trucks are also harassed (actually make that preyed upon) in Assam. With I believe the police joining in.

@HHA - I think I have referred to the Ugly Indian. Look up The Ugly American, a seminal book. The 'ugliness' (which takes different forms , depending on context) is the result of a mindset, a worldview.

Last edited by Sutripta : 20th June 2019 at 17:28.
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Old 25th June 2019, 13:59   #40
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A bike trip with my friends in 2017 to Bhutan was an eye opener. We spent close to 2weeks in Bhutan. Lemme tell you, most of our countrymen are louts. We heard many stories like the tempo traveller filled with tourists who came with gas cylinders and started to cook in a reserved forest, to being loud, downright racist (anyone with mongoloid features is considered low by the average indian; how we indians arrived at this i do not know..)
They were quite fed up with us really and those who did talk to us were pleasantly surprised that there were sophisticated Indians like us too (This forum is generally filled with the refined crowd). IMO more than entry fees they need to do a proper visa interview to figure out who to let and who not to.
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